When you’re in the midst of a messy, painful divorce or separation, it can seem like life is over.
Many people going through a split even use language and imagery that evoke images of death and dying.
However, a new study suggests that people who have experienced extreme hardships, such as a divorce or death of a loved one, are better at appreciating life’s little things.
In a study published in the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science, nearly 15,000 adults were surveyed and asked about their exposure to adverse events like death or divorce. They were also asked whether those hardships were in the past or ongoing.
Then the participants were presented with positive life scenarios like gazing at a waterfall or going on a hike to determine their ability to enjoy the positive experiences in life.
The researchers found that, “Individuals who had dealt with more adversity in the past reported an elevated capacity for savoring.” Although the participants still in the midst of their struggles displayed a “diminished proclivity for savoring positive events,” the study concluded that, “The present research lends some credence to the notion that bad days might make the good ones even better.”
These discoveries should be encouraging for anyone going through a breakup. Far too often, divorce is associated with failure and it can take years to fully recover. It is often true that life never really is the same after a divorce.
However, just because your life changes does not mean that it is over. It’s possible the experience can shape you for the better.
About a year ago a thread was started on Reddit by a man seeking advice on his looming separation. He asked, “Is anyone out there happier a year after the divorce? … Will I be happier without her in the long run?”
The responses varied and the Redditors made the important point that no two divorces are ever the same. What makes one man happy might make another miserable.
But several of the commenters made a strong case that divorce can be a catalyst to meaningful positive change.
“The thing with life during/after divorce, in my opinion, is that it is what you make of it,” wrote kintsukuroisparrow. “You choose whether you wallow in it or rise above it. You choose how much you carry with you on a daily basis. You choose if you learn & grow or keep looking behind you. No one else has that power, not the ex, not the attorneys, not your friends or family, you, & only you, get to decide that.”
It is crucial to reiterate that choosing to divorce is not the right decision for everyone. Even the best marriages have their rough patches and many couples grow closer, and happier, by battling through those struggles.
But it is harmful to stay in a broken marriage solely because of a fear about what comes next. There are plenty of things you can do post-divorce to create a new, healthy and happy life.
If you’re facing a divorce or in the middle of one and feeling depressed, don’t worry about it. Those feelings are natural and unavoidable. You should also take heart in the fact that you’re on your way to happier days and the pain you’re feeling now will give you a deeper appreciation of life’s day-to-day joys in the future.